Bottling the Big Oh!
At Naked Winery, I have long expected every aspect of our wine making to have some sort of twist on it, and bottling is no exception. A sure sign any day is going to be an adventure is when it takes the poor gal at Starbucks three tries to get both mine and Jody's drink order right. We groggily relay details at 6:30am post late night last minute preparations and then head on our way.
Bottling reminds me a lot of snowboarding, where you hurry up to wait. Rapid flurries of activity are coupled with 20 to 30 minutes of sitting on freezing cold steps. This whole chaotic production is run by the bottle truck guy, who delivers his instructions in a curt, yet friendly matter, making me feel both stressed out and excited at the same time. Did I mention that he orchestrates the day with one of the largest cigars I have ever seen outside of a mafia movie? So that's where the smoky flavor comes from.
My job was to put the final capsule on the bottle before it was sealed and to make sure each and every bottle coming down the line had a cork in it. A task I managed fairly smoothly until I had to change capsules and then I created such a back up that the emergency stop button had to be hit. The direct reactions to an emergency stop is a 5’5” man climbing like a monkey up and over the equipment twisting knobs, adjusting wine flow and resetting label placement, all while cigar is in tact. I am serious, the thing never leaves his mouth and it is amazing.
Side effects of bottling include, very cold hands, as it was January in the gorge. Luckily the other person in charge of the bottling truck is a slightly chubby golden retriever who will sit on your feet to warm them for the small price of an ear scratch. Ear scratching also cured the cold hands, so everyone is a winner. Another side effect is an affinity for heinously awesome 1980's tunes. Come on Eileen and Coma Chameleon can really only be fully appreciated as you are shaking your booty on an assembly line. The work is tedious, but needs to be precise and nothing keeps the brain turned on like a little 99 Red Balloons.
After 6 hours you now have wine in a portable receptacle, but by the end, all mental capabilities are completely exhausted. Case in point, it took 4 of us over an hour to count 6 pallets of wine. Eventually a wine club member and outside source had to count for us. All said and done I ended up with the real concrete feeling of satisfaction that solid manually labor gives me. A visual of boxes of premium wine stacked high, ready for the willing consumer. Oh, that feels good!